The Mystery of Edwin Drood - PLOT SYNOPSIS

2012 Broadway revival
The Mystery of Edwin Drood the Musical - PLOT SYNOPSIS

Act I

Act One opens as the members of the Music Hall Royale circulate among the audience, introducing themselves to the patrons. More and more members of the company add to the growing noise, until the music begins and the Chairman of the proceedings bursts forth with the show’s opening number "There You Are". They then introduce John Jasper, the 'Jekyll and Hyde' choirmaster who greets his young nephew Edwin Drood in the song "Two Kinsmen", where they express their strong friendship. Drood is engaged to the fair Miss Rosa Bud, who is Jasper’s music pupil and the object of his mad obsession. Rosa's suspicion of his obsession is confirmed when at her next lesson, he asks her to sing a song he has written- "Moonfall"- an innuendo-heavy love song from Jasper to her. The kindly Reverend Crisparkle and two exotic emigrants from Ceylon, Helena and Neville Landless, arrive. Neville is immediately attracted to Rosa, which makes him a rival to both Edwin and the secretive Jasper.

Next the chairman brings the audience to London and the sinister opium den of the Princess Puffer who talks with the audience, and explains her life in "Wages of Sin". A sinewy ballet dance follows. We discover that one of Puffer’s regular clients is none other than Jasper himself, who cries out the name 'Rosa Bud' during a hallucination. Puffer shows great interest in this fact, and stores it away in her memory. Back in Cloisterham, Neville and Drood meet and come to odds with each other almost immediately.

Next, The Chairman is called in to play another character as that actor is unable to come, but it turned out that the scenes of his character and the scenes of Mayor Sapsea coincide- and the characters have to disagree with each other. This results in major confusion for poor Mayor Sapsea/The Chairman, and laughs for the audience. He and Jasper sing of their conflicting minds- Jasper, of course, meaning it literally- in the patter song "Both Sides Of The Coin". We are then introduced to the drunken stonemason Durdles, and his assistant Deputy. In the graveyard, they tell us that Edwin and Rosa, who have been promised to each other since they were children and so cannot tell if they truly love each other, have called off their engagement ("Perfect Strangers"). As a parting gift, Rosa gives Drood her hair clasp, which once belonged to her mother.

It is Christmas Eve and Jasper has arranged a ‘reconciliation’ dinner for the Landless twins, Crisparkle, Rosa and Drood. In the resulting song "No Good Can Come from Bad", Neville and Drood's antagonism is reinstated, Helena's and Crisparkle's worry for Neville's reputation is shown, and it is revealed that Crisparkle used to be in love with Rosa's mother, who died after Rosa's birth. Soon the party disbands and the guests depart into a violent storm. There is a short halt here, where the actor playing Bazzard soliloquizes about how he never seems to be able to get a major part in a show in the song "Never The Luck".

The next day Drood has vanished. Crisparkle’s assistant discovers Edwin’s torn coat by the river. Drood was last seen walking there with Neville the night before. Nevile is almost lynched by the townsfolk before being rescued by Crisparkle. Jasper publicly swears to track down his nephew's killer; later he visits Rosa and confesses his love for her. She is horrified and angry, and they sing "The Name Of Love And Moonfall", ending with Jasper's pursuing Rosa off-stage as the act concludes.

Act II

Act Two begins six months later, and still there is no sign of Drood. There is much speculation as to his fate. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Puffer has been investigating Drood's disappearance, but has also noticed a rather seedy looking figure who seems to be doing the same. It turns out that this man (played by the same actor who plays Drood, normally), Dick Datchery, is a private investigator. They sing "Settling Up The Score". The cast appears and summarizes the situation, warning the audience, "don't fall back on your assumptions, hasty presumptions might do you in!", telling them to think carefully of who they will vote for as the murderer, in the song "Don't Quit While You're Ahead". As the song climbs to a climax, the actors trail off, and the Chairman announces to the audience that it was at this place that Charles Dickens laid down his pen forever. However, they, with the audience's help, will resolve the story and the public voting begins as to who Datchery and The Murderer are; unfortunately, the actress playing Drood and, up to that point, Datchery is not chosen as Datchery and exits the theater in a huff. Once the votes have been tabulated, the cast come out and sing "Don't Quit While You're Ahead" to welcome the audience back into the story and to remind them that the mystery has not been solved.

Puffer finds Rosa, reveals that years before she had been Rosa's nanny and tells her backstory in the song "Garden Path To Hell"; she tells of a man she loved who made her become a prostitute to please his friends and then left her. Once she lost her looks, she found a way to earn money- selling opium. She then continues with "Puffer's Revelation" and reveals the identity of Datchery (previously chosen by the audience.) The evening's Datchery (either Bazzard, Reverend Crisparkle, Helena, Neville, or Rosa) explains in their version of the revelation song "Out On A Limerick" why they donned the costume and tracked down the killer; the girls did it mainly to disguise their gender, Neville to prove his innocence, Crisparkle to help both Neville and Helena, and Bazzard to give himself both a dramatic reveal and an important character to play. The gist of each song is that the character followed Jasper to his house and found the clasp that Rosa gave Drood, which Jasper would have had only if he had taken it from Drood. Jasper's double nature reveals itself, and he admits that he strangled his nephew while under the influence of the laudanum that he reveals he poured into the wine the night of the dinner party ("Jasper's Confession").

Durdles the gravedigger, however, disagrees; he witnessed the crime and knows who truly killed Edwin Drood. Depending on the audience's vote, the finger is pointed at Bazzard, Crisparkle, Helena, Neville, Puffer, Rosa or Durdles. The murderer confesses, then sings a reprise of one of several numbers, beginning with "A Man Could Go Quite Mad", to admit his or her culpability; the gist of each of these songs is that the character who killed Drood was seeking to kill Jasper, not Drood, for his or her own purpose- Puffer to protect Rosa, Rosa to save herself, Helena to get revenge on Jasper for ruining her twin's chance at a new beginning, Bazzard to bring himself into the limelight, Neville because he wanted Rosa for himself, and Crisparkle because he killed Rosa's mother out of jealousy and religious mania and wanted to protect both Rosa and Neville from Jasper's evil. However, because of the storm, Jasper had walked with Drood for a while and then given him his coat to wear for the journey home, so the murderer, because of the laudanum in the wine and the foul night weather, mistook Drood for Jasper. (Durdles lacks this motivation, however, so his confession is simply that, in his drunkenness, he mistook Drood for a ghost.) If, although not likely, the audience chooses Jasper as the murderer, Durdles does not interrupt and a second confession is not performed (Some theaters will not count Jasper votes, to make sure that there is a twist).

Still, a happy ending is needed, and the Chairman asks the audience to choose two lovers from among the remaining cast members. The two chosen members declare their love, and then reprise "Perfect Strangers". Just then, there comes a noise from the crypt, and a very-much-alive Edwin Drood appears, ready to tell all what really happened on the night of his disappearance ("The Writing On The Wall"). What happened was that when Drood was attacked, he was only stunned when he fell and not killed. Jasper dragged him to a crypt where he left him. When Drood woke, he escaped and fled from Cloisterham, only returning so that he could find out who wanted him dead. He sings to the audience, eventually joined by the rest of the cast, imploring them to hold on to life for as long as they possibly can and telling them that 'holding on to life is all.' The mystery is solved, and the show concludes as the cast sings to the audience to read the writing on the wall.

Songs from musical: The Mystery of Edwin Drood the Musical
Synopsis to The Mystery of Edwin Drood the Musical Plot